As Winter Season Fast Approaches, Vigilance Around Home Fire Safety is Critical
BY LORRAINE CARLI, VICE PRESIDENT OF OUTREACH AND ADVOCACY
With the pandemic continuing to impact our work and daily lives in countless ways, this year has been anything but typical. At times, these shifts and challenges have made it difficult to remain focused on business as usual. However, we can’t afford to be distracted from keeping communities safe as the coldest months approach and the public’s risk to fire increases; vigilance remains critical.
Home fires are more common in November through March with multiple contributing factors at play: Cooking fires, the number-one cause of home fires year-round, increase during the holiday season with more cooking fires occurring on Thanksgiving Day than any other day of the year; Christmas Day, the day before Thanksgiving, and Christmas Eve follow as the top winter days for home cooking fires. Holiday decorations involving candles, electrical lighting, and Christmas trees contribute to a rise in home fires during the winter months as well. Meanwhile, as temperatures drop nationwide, heating equipment jumps to the leading cause of home fires.
Now add the pandemic to the mix. As people continue to spend more time at home, they’ll be doing more cooking and home heating throughout the day, ultimately spending more time engaging in activities that collectively increase the likelihood of home fires.
With these potential hazards on the horizon, we must proactively take the steps needed to mitigate them now. Waiting until tragedy strikes and responding after the fact is too late.
Many of the traditional plans and efforts to reach the public clearly aren’t safe options at this time, but there are still opportunities to engage and connect, as evidenced during Fire Prevention Week this October. In communities large and small, fire departments throughout the U.S. and Canada found creative ways to promote the campaign’s messages, from virtual and “drive by” open houses and motor vehicle parades, to TikTok and YouTube videos promoted online and social media, and partnerships with food pantries, restaurants and other local businesses. These examples of dedication and effort should be a model for all of us as we work to keep our communities safe in the months ahead, particularly given the challenges and limitations presented by the pandemic.
With these ideas as a starting point, I strongly encourage all public safety educators and professionals to create a plan for increasing awareness around winter fire safety and prevention. Tap into the tools and information at your disposal, including NFPA’s public education resources, as well as materials provided by other fire and life safety organizations. Use social media to effectively and efficiently deliver those messages to as many people as possible. Connect with peers to learn how they’re working to reach residents. Share obstacles you’re facing so that you can get the help and support you need to work through them.
Getting through the winter months during a pandemic will be trying for all of us, but putting the time, energy and resources into protecting communities remains critical to fire safety at home - the very place people are at greatest risk to fire. Getting distracted from those efforts is a risk we simply can’t afford to take.